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Naturalist Notebook

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Purple coneflowers and other native plants in front of house

Using natives in a home landscape

As a naturalist and lover of natural landscapes, I am always seeking ways of making my home landscape look its best while using native plantings. It all started 15 years ago when building my house. I was determined to stick with a non-traditional landscape around the foundation of the structure....
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photo of rainbow colored paper arranged in a design

Three astounding benefits of creating art from data

I have a confession to make. I am a data nerd. I love a good spreadsheet, seeing all those numbers (data points) neatly arrayed. But I am also an artist. And at first glance those two would seem to be incompatible. But they are not. Data can be the inspiration for art. Don’t think so? Hear me out...
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Every fall, I engage in the ritual of scouring the various woodlots on my property to remove invasive honeysuckle. Fortunately, now after several years of doing this, most of the plants I have to remove are small.  Now it's just like weeding a garden. This past October, as I was out “weeding...
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light streaming through trees

Light is magical

 “I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house." Nathaniel Hawthorne   When was the last time you noticed the light? I mean really noticed it. Not the, “oh it’s getting dark, I should turn on a light” notice, think deeper than that...
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What we have in common

If you have watch any television, scrolled through a social media feed or spent a few moments reading tweets, then you know that political ads, opinions, and half-truths have built to a fevered pitch, this first week in November. And depending on the ad, we are told we are facing Armageddon, the...
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looking up from the ground into the sky between tall trees with green leaves

Contemplation of trees

Sitting in the woods, I hear the sound of fall through the voice of the trees. Trees talk in swooshes, crackles and this time of year in a rustle. One only has to hear this distinctive sound to know the seasons have truly changed. As Walt Whitman wrote, “Go and sit in a grove or woods, with one or...
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items from a science classroom. pencils, a beaker, and science textbook

Science is learning

Sitting in Miss Hoover’s seventh grade science class I often thought how magical science seemed. Secrets of how things worked and behaved or how adding one chemical to another changed the color, all of it seemed almost unbelievable. In fact, it was more than just a magic trick. All of it was the...
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Sensational Senses

By Joy Clough, Cook County Master Naturalist, July 2020 We think we have five senses: sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste. But there are more: imagination, curiosity, memory, insight, play, and emotions that range from fear to surprise to delight. Engaging our outer and inner senses...
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man and woman fist bumping each other

A Question of Community

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” John Muir What do you think of when you hear the word “community”? Do you picture the town or city where you live? Your neighborhood? A group of people? Did any of you include plants or animals in...
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woman sitting on a fallen tree stump reflecting

When in doubt, go out, outside, that is

I don’t know about the rest of you, but this year has made me tired of technology and noise. Zoom meetings, Skype chats, cluttered inboxes, social media, cars, trains, and sirens, it never seems to end. In fact, close your eyes right now and listen to the world around you. What do you hear? Are...
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